Beliefnet
Dear Rabbi Boteach,
I just found out that in the five years my husband and I have been married, he has been viewing pornography which led to him being with prostitutes. He is repentant and wants to be forgiven but I'm not sure how to respond.
--Angry and Hurt
 
Dear Angry and Hurt,
Addiction to pornography is one of the most malignant forms of marital decay in our time. It causes many husbands to be slowly weaned off an attraction to their wives as they pursue vulgar fantasy instead. It caters to the male need for variety in the worst possible way. Rather than a husband developing an attraction for "vertical" variety--digging deeper into his wife's personality and unearthing newer and more erotic aspects thereof--he instead becomes hooked on "horizontal" variety, wherein only new lovers and new flesh will satisfy. Likewise, he cheats his wife out of her much-deserved right for his attention as he is slowly pulled away from her to the airbrushed images he downloads on the Internet.

Let me disabuse you of the notion, though, that your husband is a sex addict. Men who watch porn or go to strip clubs and prostitutes are not "sex addicts" so much as "orgasm addicts." The sex addict actually enjoys sex. He loves the friction of sex, the intensity of sex, the loss of self that comes about through sex. He loves the strong emotions and the sense of closeness that sex brings about.
 
But most men today are trained to bed women rather than stand in awe of them. Enter the orgasm addict, who hates the strong emotions that sex conjures up, which is why he wants sex over with as quickly as possible. For him, sex is nothing more than the means to an end. At the moment of sexual climax, he reaches his intended goal of non-feeling, utter emotionlessness, followed by the nirvana of sleep.

Men today hate feeling emotion. Raised with a false stereotype of machismo that is all about brawn and never about the emotions, they scarcely know how to feel. So they use sex to objectify women as a means of ensuring that no woman will ever have a hold on them.

This is why men these days have so many sexual partners. They use variety to obviate connection. The more sexual partners they have, the more meaningless sex becomes. And the more meaningless it becomes, the less connected to the woman they will be.

Porn is the male orgasm personified. It is not smart, it is not entertaining, and it is not erotic. It is pure sexual detonation. The French call the male orgasm le petite morde, or "the little death." After orgasm, the male narcissist is granted the pleasure, not of intense emotion, which the sex addict craves, but of non-emotion, which the orgasm addict seeks.
 
A love of sex reflects a love of life, because during sex we feel intensely alive. But a love of orgasm actually reflects a subconscious desire for death, because after orgasm we feel expended and caput.

The transformation of men from sex addicts into porn addicts also explains why men aren't having sex with their wives, which may or may not be true in your circumstances. On Shalom in the Home, of the twenty families we worked with in our first two seasons, roughly half had not had sex in more than a year. And these were young couples, not men on a Viagra drip.

In your husband's case, his viewing of pornography became much worse
because he actually acted on his fantasies and started going to prostitutes. With this action, he not only broke his marital vows and was deceptive and unfaithful, but he also put you at risk for the transmission of serious and potentially lethal diseases.

Still, if your husband wants forgiveness, I believe you have to seriously consider giving it to him. Marriage is very special, and we have to do our best to try and keep it together. And I assume you love him, or you wouldn't be asking me the question.
 
There is one very important caveat, however. Words are not enough. Having him say he is sorry is meaningless without action. He must demonstrate, in the most substantial way, that he is no longer going to look at any porn, and that he wants to make it up to you for cheating with other women. He must show you in some way that you can verify that on his computer he no longer visits any pornographic sites.
 
Second, he must repent of his unfaithfulness by becoming attentive and loving. We correct one extreme--in this case, the extreme of neglecting your wife and focusing on other women--by going to the other extreme, showing extravagant love to your wife. He should do this for a period of weeks until you grant him your forgiveness. And hopefully by then his attentiveness will become permanently ingrained.

G-d bless you and I hope your marriage recovers and flourishes.

Rabbi Shmuley
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